Remembering Mom on My First Mother’s Day Without Her

“Who will be your mom when Nana’s in Heaven?” My 4-year-old asked me when my mom was in the hospital a few weeks ago and we knew the end was near.

“Nana will always be my mom, even then,” I replied.

“What will she do in Heaven?”

“She’ll walk on new legs with Jesus.”


My mom may be in Heaven, but she’ll always be my mom. I know she’s there, walking and dancing and moving freely in a way she hasn’t in more than  a decade.

My mom was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy shortly after she married my dad in her 20s, which basically meant that her muscles were weakening. Back then she hardly had any symptoms and I don’t know if they realized then the journey that was ahead of them.

my beautiful mom in the 1970s
My beautiful mom before she was diagnosed

Since I was in elementary school, I started to notice the progression of my mom’s disease. Her balance was off, so she stopped being able to wear heels. Then her calf muscles noticeably deteriorated so that she didn’t like wearing shorts anymore. I can remember the sound of her clomping down the stairs slowly as she landed heavily with each step because she couldn’t control the movement as well.

As the years went by, she walked slower and slower, finally having to get a cane when I was in high school. I remember how it was so important to her to have a nice-looking one that was not medicinal looking.

We moved to California from New York right after I graduated and my dad bought her a bike to ride the trails with him. I’ll never forget the day she fell on that bike and knew that was her last time riding it. With each new downward progression, I saw her spirit break a little.

mom and me at my wedding 10 years ago
Mom and me on my wedding day 10 years ago

In the last decade, she went from using a cane, to a walker and then finally a wheelchair.  We eventually had to move her into an assisted living facility so she could have the care she needed. Her mind started deteriorating too, which made it difficult to have a conversation with her.

We knew we were losing her, but I didn’t realize how soon she’d be gone. On Easter she ended up in the hospital, her body too weak to breathe on its own anymore. When my aunt arrived, we knew it was time to say goodbye and she slipped away peacefully, surrounded by love.

I am so so glad that she is free from the burden her earthly body brought her and walking and dancing with Jesus in Heaven. She’s forever surrounded by a joy greater than anything she ever had here on Earth and I’m thankful for that.

I’m thankful I had a mom who instilled in me a faith in God. She was a woman who valued education so much, that she earned not one, but two masters degrees. She was also very open, so my friends would send me to her with all of their questions about sex. 🙂

Today Doug and I took the kids to her gravesite and brought her some things to tell her happy Mother’s Day.

the kids leaving flowers at Nana's gravesiteIt was their first time there, which brought up many questions from Reece about where exactly she was and if she could hear us (I’d like to think so, buddy, but I don’t know for sure). Later, we watched the DVD slideshow that the mortuary had made for us (which is where the pictures of pictures of her above are taken from). I loved that Emme even recognized her as her younger self and would point and say Nana for each picture.

On this Mother’s Day I’m thinking about how my mom lives on in me in the ways I care for my kids. When they call for me in the middle of the night, I’ll remember how she would come comfort me when I had a nightmare. When I sing them the song “Summertime” at bedtime, I’ll remember how I loved when she sang it to us on humid summer nights in NY. When I take care of them when they’re sick, I’ll remember what a great comforter she was and how she nursed us back to health when we weren’t feeling well (and even when we were faking it a little).

And always, always when I make the homemade sauce that my Italian grandmother taught her how to make and let my kids have a meatball as their afternoon snack, hot out of the pot that’s simmering on the stove, I’ll remember how that same delicious smell wafted through our house when I would walk in the door after school.

Kids and Me on Mother's Day

For better or for worse, our mothers live on in their daughters and I’m glad I have these memories to pass on to them.

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